£800,000 to fix Kerrera’s new breakwater

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At least 10 metres of Kerrera’s new breakwater will have to be demolished and rebuilt at a cost of £800,000, just two years since it was finished, after it was struck by a boat.

The Scottish Government invested £2.05 million into a project, completed ‘on time and within budget’ in August 2016, to extend the two slipways at the ferry crossing between Gallanach and Kerrera.

A new 40-metre breakwater was also constructed on the Kerrera side to allow lifeboats to moor for medical evacuation and provide ‘a more reliable and resilient ferry service’ for its islanders in poor weather, making cancellations and delays less likely.

Then last year CalMac replaced the ferry MV Gylen Lady with the smallest ferry in its fleet, the 12-metre MV Carvoria with space for 12 passengers and a single car, to operate the Gallanach to Kerrera crossing.

But that December a boat made ‘heavy contact’ with Kerrera’s new breakwater, causing ‘significant’ damage, according to Argyll and Bute Council.

A spokesperson for Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), which owns CalMac’s ferries and ports, told The Oban Times this week: ‘Approximately 10 metres of the breakwater structure was damaged.

‘The impact displaced a number of the pre-cast concrete deck sections and steel sheet piles. The damaged section has been closed since the incident and a maritime engineer undertakes regular inspections to monitor its condition until repairs are carried out.

‘We have conducted a public procurement exercise to appoint a contractor to demolish and rebuild the damaged section of the breakwater. The works are scheduled to begin in October and be completed in January 2019.

‘A project budget of £800,000 has been allocated for the rebuilding works, which will be fully recovered through our infrastructure insurance arrangements.

‘All vessel collisions are investigated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Discussions in relation to the cause are ongoing.’

The four-mile-long island, which listed a growing population of 64 full-time residents in May, is divided into north and south communities, linked to the mainland by ferries at Gallanach and Oban’s North Pier, but only joined to each other by a small dirt track.

Despite a thriving community and visitor numbers of more than 15,000 people a year, the island has no public shop or village hall and the school closed its doors to pupils in 1997. To access fuel, banking, post office, health services and education, islanders must go to the mainland.

Earlier this year the Kerrera Development Trust was granted £19,633 from the Scottish Land Fund to look into buying the island’s former school and turning it into their first gathering hall for 20 years.

The trust told The Oban Times at the time: ‘Community Enterprise is now developing a five-year business plan for the former school, which will enable the community to decide whether to go for full ownership of the building.’

Last week on Mull, Argyll and Bute councillors on the Oban, Lorn and the Islands Area Committee discussed details of a ‘proposed sale’ of the former Kerrera Primary School to the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust.